Every year over the July 4th holiday, since my son was born 6 years ago, I’ve taken him on a road trip to Wisconsin to visit my sister and her family. Long ago, when he was firstborn, I was a meeting planner with a seemingly endless supply of frequent-stay points at a couple of major hotel chains, so we’d drive about halfway and stay somewhere in the South Bend area at a Marriott or Hilton, then finish the drive the next day. It can be done in one day, but it’s very, very exhausting. There’s the inevitable construction, and the trip always takes longer than planned, between traffic slowdowns, detours, pit stops and breaks to eat the food I pack for us in a cooler, road food being what it is.
When he was an infant, his Dad came along for the drive, and that helped offset the screaming of the child who just wanted out of the car seat after 3-4 hours at a stretch. He could sit in the back and play with him while I drove, or vice versa. Things change. I started making the journey alone when D was only two. It was just less stressful without two cranky people to care for. I’d get a quick visit in with my sister in her enormous, beautiful house, she’d get some baby time and then we’d go back home almost as soon as we arrived. But it was fun. I really, really like road trips. And I almost never get to see my sister, who is pretty much missing my son growing up completely, since I only see her once or twice a year.
Timing of allotted vacation days being the way it is, sometimes we would only see fireworks from our hotel window the night of July 4th. D marveled at these when he was 3, and so I made a point to take him to actually see them from then on, sometimes in the city where our hotel was located. Fireworks are not my thing. I liked them when I was a kid, but my Dad died on July 4th, and though the day was many years ago, the evening of his death was marked by me being in a car for a few hours, journeying from one city to another as I felt my Dad’s life slipping away in a distant hospital bed. Each city’s fireworks that we passed just sounded like the explosions of war to me and it traumatized me for awhile, the sound of them. When I worked at an outdoor concert facility and we would have fireworks, I had a good friend who looked out for me and knew my history. He’d come get me about 10 minutes before the fireworks would start and relieve me from my post so I could go hide out in the bathroom, then he’d fetch me after, making sure I was ok. Eventually, they didn’t affect me like that anymore, but I still was never a big fan. But then the boy was born, and you have to reconsider everything anew.
The last couple of years, we actually made it to Madison in time for their fireworks, and we’d all traipse out to a hill in a neighborhood near the display, getting eaten alive by mosquitos and the kid being overtired and cranky, but it was still fun.
Now, I am divorced, and she is on her way to same. There is no big house to go to. I’m out of hotel frequent stay points and her apartment doesn’t really have room and she has plans anyway. Which is fine.
But this is the first year since my boy was born that I won’t be with him to see his joy and amazement at the fireworks. I asked his Dad to please make sure to take him to a display somewhere, but of course that’s up to him.
I will retreat from the sound of the explosions again, as they once again bring me sadness.
Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers and styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing as the days come down to you